Microsoft's millions, problematic programs and wicked wireless

News Schmooze: Redmond may make a lot of money, but why doesn't it translate into more secure software? Also, good news for the mobile phone industry

If anyone needed more proof of Microsoft's utter dominance of the IT industry, it came this week with the disclosure of the latest Redmond balance sheets. To get to the point, Microsoft's net earnings doubled in its most recent quarter, compared with the same quarter a year ago. In the meantime, most other companies in this sector, including Intel, Sun and HP, were busy apologising for their past mistakes, announcing layoffs and hoping that the surly mob wouldn't haul them off to the guillotine. (One of the few other tech-related companies doing alright was Nokia, which is still selling a lot of mobile phones.) Microsoft's success was, as expected, due to its success in strong-arming customers into its new licensing plan, a sort of software-industry equivalent of protection money ("pay for a lot of future upgrades now, or you might find them a little harder to get ahold of next time"). John Connors, slapping a baseball bat into the palm of one hand, noted that customers had "recognised the value of entering into long-term licensing agreements for our products".
Licensing buoys Microsoft again
Nokia profit bolstered by new phone demand
With layoffs, Sun eyes profitability Unfortunately, nearly infinite amounts of money do not appear to easily translate into stable and secure products. Besides the usual raft of new Windows security flaws, Microsoft revealed that its beta-testing network had been hacked. More disturbingly, direct advertisers appear to be using an administrative messaging function in Windows to make ads pop up directly on the desktop of Internet-connected computers.
Spammers slipping ads through Windows
Windows XP, Office and SQL Server open to new attacks
Beta hack rattles Microsoft So far the world of mobile phones has escaped such larks, but that seems to be changing. As the head of Sony's wireless-gaming division remarked, more and more of these increasingly complex handsets are being released with bugs. OK, maybe Nokia may be a little extreme in rushing out 22 new wireless devices this year, but it would be nice if Sony Ericsson could finally get its extremely attractive P800 out of the lab so that we can all play with it.
Sony: For games' sake, fix your phones While all the new embedded-camera phones are very interesting, better news for the mobile phone industry might be an announcement from Private Media. The porn company, known for its attempt to buy Napster at the 13th hour, is going to offer a series of steamy text messages for £6. This is just the sort of thing that made the Internet so popular back in the 1990s. Can the love be spread to a new medium?
Blue phone could cause red faces Mobile phones, maybe, but try to spice up a video game with a little sex and drugs, and far-right American moral guardians get on your case. Games are for kids, right? That, at least, seems to be the reasoning behind the ban by several major US retailers on Acclaim's game "BMX XXX", not to be confused with the Vin Diesel film vehicle "XXX" which itself, disappointingly, carries a 12 rating. The argument goes that if you want to buy uncensored games and videotapes you should go across the street to some immoral competitor. Unfortunately, much of the time Wal-Mart and the like have already put this competitor out of business.
Retailers ban 'vulgar' Acclaim game The different approaches of Apple and Microsoft to their "switch" advertising campaigns are instructive. Apple tends to colonise the brains of its users until they couldn't live without a "lickable" user interface with Unix underpinnings, and wrinkle their noses when they see a beige box. Thus the TV commercials featuring real people who, like TOTALLY think the Mac is SO cool. Microsoft, on the other hand, tracks down one of its employees who has switched from Mac to Windows and has her regurgitate a few paragraphs of boilerplate Windows XP advertising copy, using a stock photo for her picture. Somehow it all feels a bit like the recruitment pitches of two clashing Borg hives.
Microsoft 'regrets' Mac-to-PC convert ad The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.


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